Georgette Keller: 2012 Civic Person of the Year

01/04/2013 8:00 AM |
Jamesport-South Jamesport, Save Main Road, Georgette Keller, People of the Year

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport Civic Association and a leader of ‘Save Main Road.’

While many people move to the North Fork for its rural character, most just sit back and enjoy the pastoral elements — come what may.

Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association president Georgette Keller is one of the few people to take up arms, so to speak, and fight to maintain her communities the way they are.

For spearheading preservation efforts and creating grassroots campaigns to deter overdevelopment, Ms. Keller is the Riverhead News-Review Civic Person of the Year.

Angela DeVito, recording secretary and a former president of the civic association, said Ms. Keller first joined the organization in 2003 out of concern about proposed waterfront development. A few years later, Ms. Keller and Richard Wines succeeded in creating a foundation to preserve the historic Jamesport Meeting House on Main Road, a North Fork landmark.

“We were impressed by her knowledge of zoning laws,” Ms. DeVito recalled of that first meeting with Ms. Keller. “She started talking about the need for historic preservation and the importance of our way of life.”

Ms. Keller is a reading specialist in the Riverhead School District and has studied history and architecture. The former paralegal moved from Amityville to Jamesport about 14 years ago with her husband, Robert, a retired Long Island Rail Road worker and North Fork native. The couple has two daughters, Nina, 15, and Grace, 16.

Earlier this year, Ms. Keller helped launch the “Save Main Road” campaign, a grassroots effort organizers claim is needed to maintain Jamesport’s rural character.

One major development project Save Main Road has dug in against is Jamesport Development LLC’s plan to build a 42,000-square-foot shopping center, called the Village at Jamesport, next to the Elbow Room restaurant. The Town Board last year approved two special use permits for the project, one allowing professional offices totaling 17,000 square feet and the other allowing two bistros as big as 8,000 square feet each.

Members of the Save Main Road group kicked off a campaign to raise money for legal action challenging the town’s approval of the permits and have since filed suit. The group is awaiting the judge’s ruling on motions from the town and developers to dismiss its suit.

The group also successfully pressured the YMCA to look for another location after Y officials had proposed to build a facility on Main Road in Aquebogue.

Ms. DeVito said the Save Main Road campaign has been an uphill battle in the midst of recent “civic bashing” that’s come from various officials, but that makes Ms. Keller’s dedication to the cause that much more admirable.

“She’s an amazing friend and person,” Ms. DeVito said.

Ms. Keller and other civic members have most recently been working with the state to designate Main Road, from County Route 105 to the Southold Town line in Laurel, as a historic corridor.

jennifer@timesreview.com